by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
We were both of us -- ay, we were both of us there,
In the self-same house at the play together;
To her it was summer, with bees in the air --
To me it was winter weather.
We never had met, and yet we two
Had played in desperate woman fashion,
A game of life, with a prize in view,
And oh! I played with passion.
'Twas a game that meant heaven and sweet home-life
For the one who went forth with a crown upon her;
For the one who lost -- it meant lone strife,
Sorrow, despair, and dishonour.
Well, she won (yet it was not she --
I am told that she was a praying woman:
No earth. power could outwit me --
But hers was superhuman).
She has the prize, and I have -- well,
Memories sweeter than joys of heaven;
Memories fierce as the fires of hell --
Those unto me were given.
And we sat in the self-same house last night;
And he was there. It is no error
When I say (and it gave me keen delight)
That his eye met mine with terror.
When the love we have won at any cost
Has grown familiar as some old story,
Nought seems so dear as the love we lost,
All bright with the Past's weird glory.
And though he is fond of that woman, I know --
I saw in his eyes the brief confession --
That the love seemed sweeter which he let go
Than that in his possession.
So I am content. It would be the same
Were I the wife love-crowned and petted,
And she the woman who lost the game --
Then she were the one regretted.
And loving him so, I would rather be
The one he let go -- and then vaguely desired,
Than, winning him, once in his face to see
The look of a love grown tired.
Source:Poems of Pleasure
Gay And Bird, 22 Bedford Street, Strand, London